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Westlake Legal Group > Warren, Elizabeth

In Iowa, the ‘Not Sanders’ Democrats Find Voters Torn

Westlake Legal Group 27iowa1-facebookJumbo In Iowa, the ‘Not Sanders’ Democrats Find Voters Torn Warren, Elizabeth Vilsack, Tom Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Polls and Public Opinion Klobuchar, Amy Iowa Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Bloomberg, Michael R Biden, Joseph R Jr

BETTENDORF, Iowa — As they streamed out of the ballroom following a Scott County fund-raising banquet Saturday night, one after the other Iowa Democrats admitted that they still had not decided whom to support just over a week before the state’s presidential caucuses.

But by not mentioning his name as they rattled off their short lists, they made it clear whom they would not support: Senator Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist from Vermont who has taken the lead in recent polls.

Instead, every one of the 30 still-undecided Democratic activists here rattled off some combination of the same four names — Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

As Mr. Sanders tightens his grip on the party’s young and left-wing voters in Iowa, more traditional Democrats, the ones who happily sit through marathon banquet dinners to hear the candidates and their representatives, remain split between his four leading competitors or remain unsure altogether about whom to rally behind.

“I have told my colleagues all along: Bernie Sanders can win with 27 percent of the vote here,” said Representative Dave Loebsack, an Iowa Democrat supporting Mr. Buttigieg, alluding to his fellow lawmakers, many of whom are deeply uneasy about running with Mr. Sanders on top of the ticket.

The fracture among mainstream Democrats here carries profound implications for a primary that has already unsettled the party establishment and prompted late entrants into the race.

Mr. Sanders is threatening to seize control in the early states, taking narrow but clear polling leads in Iowa and New Hampshire and increasingly menacing Mr. Biden’s advantage in national polls. With his mammoth online fund-raising operation, Mr. Sanders appears to be in a position of financial strength unmatched by any other candidate besides Michael R. Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City.

Mr. Sanders’s endurance, and his apparent rise in the earliest primary and caucus states, reflects both the loyalty of his core supporters and their conviction that Mr. Sanders would bring the same fighting resilience to the general election. But even among many liberals who admire Mr. Sanders’s campaign, or some of his policy ideas, there is deep concern about the implications of nominating a candidate from the left whom President Trump is sure to portray as extreme.

“I think that Bernie is just a bridge too far for the country,” said Bonnie Campbell, a former Iowa attorney general who is supporting Mr. Biden. Ms. Campbell said she would have no difficulty supporting Mr. Sanders in the general election, but added, “I can tell you, I hear from friends and colleagues who say: ‘Oh my God, what are we going to do if Bernie wins?’”

But in Iowa, Democrats who hope to avert that outcome do not appear close to settling on another candidate as an alternative to Mr. Sanders. And if more moderate voters don’t coalesce behind an alternative by next week’s caucus, party traditionalists fear, Mr. Sanders could win Iowa with only a modest plurality, emboldening his leading rivals to remain in the race, and then notch another victory again a week later in New Hampshire. No Democrat in modern times has lost contested races in both Iowa and New Hampshire and claimed the nomination.

The early primary and caucus outcomes could have an outsize impact on later primaries, including the large states voting in March, some of which begin collecting mail-in and early ballots in the immediate aftermath of Iowa. If a candidate like Mr. Sanders were to seize momentum next week, it could help him build a head start in states like California and Texas.

It is a scenario that is deeply alarming to establishment-aligned Democrats, if not unfamiliar. Four years ago, convinced Donald Trump could not win the presidency, they watched with delight as he snatched the Republican nomination without winning majorities because his more traditional rivals divided the vote and refused to bow out.

The Democrats in this race have been as reluctant to target Mr. Sanders as the Republicans were to target Mr. Trump four years ago; in each case they were skeptical of his staying power and believed they had more to gain by attacking other rivals.

Even now, as Mr. Sanders takes a lead in the first two early states, his opponents have not delivered a sustained argument against his candidacy, and remain reluctant to take him on: while Mr. Buttigieg drew attention for warning in a fund-raising solicitation that a Sanders nomination would be too risky, he notably declined to amplify his rhetoric in television interviews over the weekend. The closest he has come to confronting his rival on the left is to make oblique references to the often-bitter 2016 primary between Hillary Clinton and Mr. Sanders.

“Most of us would agree the less 2020 resembles 2016 the better — in all respects,” Mr. Buttigieg said in a brief interview. Each of the would-be Stop Sanders candidates has built enough political strength to justify forging ahead: Mr. Biden remains the national front-runner, with unmatched support among black voters; Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Warren both have double-digit support in New Hampshire polls, and sizable war chests; Ms. Klobuchar has the thinnest operation beyond Iowa of the group, but over the weekend she earned the endorsement of New Hampshire’s influential Union Leader newspaper.

Should all four move forward from Iowa, with their perceived strengths and weaknesses, it could make it difficult for any of them to become a rallying point for voters uneasy about Mr. Sanders.

Complicating matters further for traditionalists, and making this race potentially even messier than Mr. Trump’s primary, is the presence of Mr. Bloomberg, who is not contesting the traditional early states in February but has already poured more than $270 million in advertising into later contests and made clear to allies that he will remain in the race should Mr. Sanders come roaring into March.

Mr. Bloomberg was on Ms. Klobuchar’s mind as she left the dinner here Saturday. She was asked if she would remain in the race if she did not break into the top three in the caucuses, which has often been the number of viable candidates who leave the state.

Even if you’re in fourth, she was asked?

“You think it’s only going to be down to four candidates even by New Hampshire?” she said before answering the question. “No, it’s not.”

Then, pointing to Mr. Bloomberg, she explained why the Democratic vote may remain splintered.

“Why would I get out while he’s still in?” Ms. Klobuchar demanded.

With nearly 40 percent of Iowa voters indicating in a new New York Times-Siena College poll that they were still not certain about whom to support, Mr. Sanders could still suffer a reversal of fortune here.

That’s in part because of the state’s complex, multiphase caucusing process, which allows supporters of underdog candidates to shift to stronger contenders. If Mr. Sanders has the most enthusiastic base of support in Iowa, he may be less well positioned to expand his bloc in later rounds should moderate voters rally to one of the four other leading candidates.

And it’s Ms. Klobuchar whom Iowa Democrats are watching most closely. If she does not reach 15 percent in most precincts, her supporters could determine the statewide winner if they migrate mostly to one candidate.

Former Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, Mr. Biden’s most prominent supporter in the state, was blunt about why Ms. Klobuchar’s backers should support the former vice president.

Mr. Biden has the best chance of winning the general election, he shares Ms. Klobuchar’s pragmatic politics and “Joe is going to need a running mate,” Mr. Vilsack said.

A more urgent concern for Mr. Vilsack was the prospect of Iowa producing a muddled result, a scenario that’s more likely this year because the state party, for the first time, is releasing raw vote totals from the initial round of balloting as well as the final results and delegate allocations.

“If I had to make one prediction, there will be a split decision and that’ll have repercussions,” he said. “Because whoever quote-unquote wins can claim that they won, and talk about it going into New Hampshire.”

So while they still hope to best Mr. Sanders in Iowa or New Hampshire, several of Mr. Sanders’s rivals have begun emphasizing their strengths in states later in the calendar.

Mr. Biden’s advisers and surrogates have been stressing his support among minority communities that become important starting with the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22, while Ms. Warren’s campaign circulated a memo last week detailing its preparations in the March primaries that will award most of the delegates that will settle the Democratic nomination.

And in a conversation with volunteers before a town hall-style meeting in Davenport on Sunday, Ms. Warren reiterated her determination to compete into March and beyond, telling supporters she already has staff in 30 states, according to a volunteer who attended the meeting and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

“We all know that this is very likely to be a long nomination process,” said California Assemblyman David Chiu, who on Sunday was opening a campaign headquarters in San Francisco for Ms. Warren and said of her campaign: “They are going to put up a tremendous fight here in the state.”

That phase of the race is also when Mr. Bloomberg, with his vast personal fortune, could become a more urgent factor, either rising as an obstacle for Mr. Sanders or further fracturing the party’s moderate wing.

In California, Mayor Robert Garcia of Long Beach, who endorsed Mr. Biden this month, said he expected the former vice president to consolidate support there “once it becomes clear that there’s a few candidates left.”

But gathering support around just a few candidates could also be difficult in California, Mr. Garcia noted, because the state’s mail-in ballots would list the names of candidates who falter or withdraw over the course of February.

“There are going to be a lot of candidates in California, because they are going to be on the ballot,” he said. “There will be some drop-off, but they’re all competitive here and that’s going to continue.”

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Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army

The defense from Bernie Sanders was straightforward: It wasn’t me.

He had been milling about on the Senate floor one day in the summer of 2017 when a colleague, Kamala Harris, stepped toward him. “Do we have a problem?” Ms. Harris asked, according to Democrats familiar with the exchange.

Some prominent Sanders supporters had been flaming Ms. Harris publicly as the preferred choice of the corporate Democratic establishment against which Mr. Sanders had long railed, a view amplified among Sanders-boosting accounts across social media. “Pre-emptive strike,” one person wrote on the popular SandersForPresident Reddit group, where Sanders fans were sharing details of Ms. Harris’s recent fund-raising swing in the Hamptons with former Hillary Clinton donors. “Start the conversation now, end it before 2020.”

Mr. Sanders assured Ms. Harris that there was no issue, the Democrats familiar with their conversation said. He insisted that he could not control how his followers communicated.

But two years later, as both senators pursued the party’s 2020 presidential nomination and Ms. Harris returned to the Hamptons to collect campaign checks, Mr. Sanders broadcast an observation of his own after Ms. Harris raised doubts about his “Medicare for all” plan. “I don’t go to the Hamptons to raise money from billionaires,” he tweeted last August, elevating a message that supporters had already been pushing. Thousands of retweets followed.

Since the start of Mr. Sanders’s first presidential campaign in 2016, his colossal online support base has been by turns a source of peerless strength and perpetual aggravation — envied and caricatured by rivals who covet such loyalty, feared by Democrats who have faced harassment from his followers, and alternately cherished and gently scolded by the candidate himself.

The zeal of Mr. Sanders’s fans has helped establish him as one of the 2020 front-runners a week before the Iowa caucuses. No other Democrat attracts supporters more dedicated to forcefully defending their candidate and lashing his foes, more willing to repeatedly donate their time and money to sustain his bid. Through the end of 2019, Mr. Sanders had raised nearly $100 million from over five million individual donations, without ever holding traditional fund-raisers, leading the primary field.

Yet as Mr. Sanders moves to position himself as a standard-bearer for a party he has criticized from the left for decades, the power of his internet army has also alarmed Democrats who are familiar with its underside, experienced in ways large and small.

Some progressive activists who declined to back Mr. Sanders have begun traveling with private security after incurring online harassment. Several well-known feminist writers said they had received death threats. A state party chairwoman changed her phone number. A Portland lawyer saw her business rating tumble on an online review site after tussling with Sanders supporters on Twitter.

Other notable targets have included Ady Barkan, a prominent liberal activist with A.L.S. — whom some Sanders-cheering accounts accused of lacking decision-making faculties due to his illness as he prepared to endorse Senator Elizabeth Warren — and Fred Guttenberg, the father of a shooting victim from the 2018 Parkland massacre, who had criticized Mr. Sanders’s statements about gun violence.

“Politics is a contact sport,” said Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina State legislator who supported Ms. Harris in the Democratic primary. “But you have to be very cognizant when you say anything critical of Bernie online. You might have to put your phone down. There’s going to be a blowback, and it could be sexist, racist and vile.”

In recent days, he said, one man sent a profanity-filled private message on Instagram, calling Mr. Sellers, who is black, an “Uncle Tom” and wishing him brain cancer.

When Mr. Sanders’s supporters swarm someone online, they often find multiple access points to that person’s life, compiling what can amount to investigative dossiers. They will attack all public social media accounts, posting personal insults that might flow in by the hundreds. Some of the missives are direct threats of violence, which can be reported to Twitter or Facebook and taken down.

More commonly, there is a barrage of jabs and threats sometimes framed as jokes. If the target is a woman, and it often is, these insults can veer toward her physical appearance.

For some perceived Sanders critics, there has been mail sent to home addresses — or the home addresses of relatives. The contents were unremarkable: news articles about the political perils of centrism. The message seemed clear: We know where you live.

— Bernie Sanders, in a 2019 letter to supporters

Interviews with current and former staff members and major online supporters make clear that top advisers — and often, Mr. Sanders himself — are acutely aware of the bile spread in his name.

In February 2019, shortly after announcing his second presidential run, Mr. Sanders emailed a letter to surrogates. “I want to be clear,” he said, “that I condemn bullying and harassment of any kind and in any space.”

That he felt compelled to append this note to his national reintroduction was perhaps as telling as its contents.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_163025088_86bbb9f9-f4fe-44bd-a623-581bf2a819b3-articleLarge Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army Warren, Elizabeth Social Media Sanders, Bernard Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Cyberharassment Clinton, Hillary Rodham

Mr. Sanders at a campaign rally in Queens in October. Credit…Christopher Lee for The New York Times

The Sanders campaign declined to discuss its 2020 digital operation and the extent to which it monitored social media discussions.

A spokesman, Mike Casca, flagged Mr. Sanders’s call for civility from last February. The campaign also released a statement from a spokeswoman, Sarah Ford, emphasizing the candidate’s previous remarks. “As the senator has said loudly and clearly,” she said, “there is no room in the political revolution for abuse and harassment online.”

Sanders aides routinely decide against commenting publicly about an online spat, reasoning that to do so would only elevate the conflict. The candidate’s defenders are quick to reject any suggestion that Mr. Sanders is responsible for the most egregious conduct of his followers, who are disproportionately young and overrepresented online, when the vast majority proceed with greater care.

His allies also argue that online combat is not unique to the Sanders side, with some high-profile women who support the senator saying they have been attacked, too.

“The same folks who want to complain that Sanders supporters are more vicious than anybody else never come out to chastise the supporters of other candidates,” said Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator and Mr. Sanders’s national campaign co-chair.

But many political veterans outside the Sanders operation fault the campaign’s handling of the vitriol.

Jess Morales Rocketto, a progressive strategist who worked on campaigns for Barack Obama and Mrs. Clinton, said Mr. Sanders had empowered aides and surrogates who “have a tendency to aggressively amplify things that a campaign would normally shut down amongst supporters.”

“There are always people who say things that are problematic. It’s not that that is unique to Bernie’s campaign,” she said. “What’s unique is it is a consistent problem in the universe of Bernie Sanders.”

— RoseAnn DeMoro, a Sanders supporter and former leader of National Nurses United

With more than 10 million followers on Twitter, Mr. Sanders has a larger audience on the platform than Ms. Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Amy Klobuchar combined. A sizable number could be automated bots or fictitious accounts. Federal prosecutors have detailed coordinated efforts by Russian nationals to interfere in the 2016 election, with an emphasis on two candidates — Donald J. Trump and Mr. Sanders — whom the Russians hoped to bolster while denigrating their opponents.

In a party gripped with anxiety about unifying to defeat Mr. Trump, the venom among Sanders backers and their counterparts supporting other candidates is of serious concern to Democrats.

Peggy Huppert, an Iowa activist who consulted for the 2016 Sanders campaign, said she had decided to support Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., in 2020 “in large part because of the way he conducts himself.” She praised Mr. Sanders’s letter to supporters after his announcement but said that this message had plainly failed to resonate.

“Obama set the tone for his campaign: ‘You are positive, you are respectful, you are civil,’” Ms. Huppert said. “I guess Bernie hasn’t.”

In recent days, Sanders supporters have filled the social media feeds of Ms. Warren and her allies with snakes — emojis, GIFs, doctored photographs — following the candidates’ quarrel over whether Mr. Sanders had told Ms. Warren privately in 2018 that a woman could not win the presidency. And last week, Mrs. Clinton resurfaced to revisit old wounds, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Mr. Sanders was to blame for permitting and “very much supporting” a toxic campaign culture.

For many of Mr. Sanders’s admirers, the interview only reinforced a conviction that traditional Democratic forces wish him political harm.

So why, they ask, should he be expected to stifle his most potent megaphone?

“You can’t control these folks,” RoseAnn DeMoro, a vocal Sanders supporter and former leader of National Nurses United, said of his online base. “I should say, ‘us folks.’”

There was a running joke inside the Clinton campaign’s 2016 Brooklyn headquarters: The cruelest surprise her digital team could pull on staff members was to retweet their personal account from the candidate’s handle, putting them on the radar of Mr. Sanders’s followers.

Mrs. Clinton’s aides mostly marveled at the scope and intensity of an ostensible long shot’s online base.

Mr. Sanders’s supporters, now often identified on Twitter by the rose emoji of the Democratic Socialists of America, loosely coordinated in private channels on Slack, a messaging service designed for the workplace, and congregated on Reddit, posting memes, news and jokes. (Today, there are 384,000 members in the SandersForPresident group on Reddit. The central group for Mr. Biden has about 3,100.)

— Michael Ceraso, a 2016 Sanders aide

Top Sanders aides initially worked to assemble traditional campaign infrastructure with staff on the ground in early nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire. But much of the rest of the map was effectively the province of volunteers, who were responsible for helping to translate online enthusiasm into in-person support.

To Mr. Sanders, who had long bet his career on the power of mass movements, the online momentum did not necessarily register as unusual, even if he did not understand all the nuts and bolts.

Zack Exley, a senior adviser in 2016, said someone once asked Mr. Sanders how he had managed to draw so many people to his events.

“What do you mean?” the candidate replied, according to Mr. Exley. That was just how movements worked.

“If you’re in that position,” Mr. Exley said, “I don’t think you’re actually curious about how they got there.”

Others suggested that Mr. Sanders was highly attuned to what was happening online. His campaign aides tracked popular hashtags and, at times, encountered caustic posts. The candidate was particularly cognizant of, and grateful for, his online supporters’ capacity for small-dollar fund-raising.

“It would stun me that he wouldn’t know what was going on, positive or negative, online,” said Michael Ceraso, a Sanders aide in 2016 who worked for Mr. Buttigieg’s presidential campaign for part of last year.

While Mr. Sanders has said he does not have Twitter or any other apps on his phone, he is aware of the power of his online platform. “Given the fact that I have more social media followers than maybe all of my opponents combined, I guess we’re doing something right on that,” he told The New York Times editorial board. “What I have recognized is the importance of it.”

Ro Khanna, a California congressman who is now Mr. Sanders’s national campaign co-chair, said that the same internet that helped usher in the presidencies of Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama had made Mr. Sanders an unlikely juggernaut.

“If it weren’t for social media, if it weren’t for the use of email, Bernie Sanders would never have been a major contender,” he said. “It’s a glimpse, I think, into what the future of what campaigns may be.”

— a message received by Maya Contreras, co-founder of a feminist think tank who has been critical of Mr. Sanders

That is precisely what some Democrats fear. As the 2016 primary grew increasingly fractious, Mr. Sanders’s campaign found a drawback to such fervor: the online bullying among some supporters.

Sady Doyle, a progressive feminist author and Sanders critic who has been the subject of his followers’ ire, recalled one message she received from a stranger: “If you ever have a child, I’m going to dash it on the walls of Troy.” She said her husband asked her not to attend protests alone while pregnant.

Maya Contreras, a graduate student and co-founder of a feminist think tank who has criticized Mr. Sanders on Twitter, recalled a deluge in the lead-up to the 2016 election. “I got messages saying ‘go back to where you came from’ — which is Denver, Colorado, where I was born,” she said.

“Someone tweeted and said ‘You better watch where you’re going or something’s going to happen to you,’” Ms. Contreras added. “I also got ‘die bitch.’”

In person, serious violence has been avoided, it seems, though there have been occasional low-grade clashes. A May 2016 fight over delegates in Nevada included reports of thrown chairs, which some Sanders supporters dispute, and threats against the state party chairwoman, Roberta Lange, who changed her phone number after receiving a torrent of menacing messages about her, her grandchild and other relatives.

Former Senator Barbara Boxer of California, a Clinton supporter who had been at the Nevada convention, said she worried for her safety after being booed offstage.

“After the incident, Bernie and I talked on the phone, and he said, ‘I can’t believe that, my supporters would never do that,’” Ms. Boxer recalled. “I said, ‘Well, you ought to get to the bottom of it, Bernie.’”

She said Mr. Sanders responded, “Those cannot be my people.”

By early 2016, the behavior of Mr. Sanders’s online supporters, short-handed in the media as “Bernie Bros,” had become a stubborn trope, diagnosed as a political problem at the highest levels of the senator’s campaign, even as aides largely blamed Mrs. Clinton’s operation for overblowing it.

At times in public, Mr. Sanders tried to disclaim unseemly conduct. “We don’t want that crap,” he said in February 2016.

But he and his senior team also nursed a sharp sense of grievance. Jeff Weaver, a top Sanders strategist, played down the gravity of the Nevada unrest, telling CNN afterward that “no one had a right to feel threatened.”

“What happens,” he said, “is that when you rig the process and you get an angry crowd, you know, they’re not used to that.”

When the story broke this month detailing the private conversation between Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren about female electability, Sanders surrogates received a message from the campaign, advising them against going out of their way to engage with it publicly.

But later that day, Mr. Sanders’s campaign manager, Faiz Shakir, told CNN that whoever had pushed the Warren story was lying. Shaun King, a civil rights activist and prominent Sanders supporter with more than one million Twitter followers, said he saw an opportunity.

Among other widely circulated tweets, Mr. King wrote that he had spoken to Warren campaign staff members who reported that she “routinely embellishes stories.” He alleged that the Warren campaign and its allies “leaked this attack against Bernie to the press for political gain.”

Eventually, Ms. Turner, the campaign co-chair, got in touch. “She called me and said, ‘Shaun, just let up on it,’” he said. He did, to an extent. But by then, much of the Sanders-aligned internet was about to begin tweeting snakes at Ms. Warren and her supporters en masse.

In that instance and more than a handful of others over the past year, the campaign has publicly distanced itself from the rancor. Mr. Sanders’s wife, Jane, called for unity as the Warren squabble persisted. Mr. Sanders weighed in when some followers scorched Mr. Barkan, the activist with A.L.S., after his endorsement of Ms. Warren. “Bernie and all of his staff and surrogates were incredibly gracious and kind when I made the difficult decision to endorse one of my heroes over the other,” Mr. Barkan said in a statement.

The campaign recognizes the possible political downsides in any extreme behavior, but aides are perhaps most wary of the “bro” portion of the “Bernie Bro” descriptor, as Mr. Sanders prepares to make his case to a diverse Democratic electorate later in the primary calendar. Ms. Ford, the Sanders spokeswoman, said opponents were perpetuating “a false myth to discount the diversity of our supporters.”

While Mr. Sanders’s poll numbers with nonwhite voters are stronger than many rivals’, female and nonwhite Sanders critics say they continue to face disproportionate harassment from ostensibly progressive forces. “People talk about white dudes getting radicalized on the right,” said Imani Gandy, a senior legal analyst for Rewire.News behind a popular Twitter account, @AngryBlackLady. “I feel like white dudes in Brooklyn are being radicalized too.”

Candice Aiston, a lawyer who supported Ms. Harris before she left the primary, sparred with Sanders supporters last year and found herself targeted beyond Twitter: Some condemned her in Google reviews of her law practice and reported her to the Oregon state bar association, which dismissed the complaints.

(“She’s O.K. at her job, but her right wing ideology screams too loud,” one online review read. “Would not recommend.”)

For the campaign, the balance is delicate — tut-tutting at times without diluting the force of online support. Mr. Khanna, the congressman and campaign co-chair, called Mr. Sanders “the one person on our side who can counter what Trump’s formidable presence is going to be online.”

This view is shared among some online supporters who have turned Sanders fandom into something approaching a full-time job. Rodney Latstetter, a 62-year-old retiree in Illinois who posted repeatedly in 2017 about Ms. Harris’s Hamptons fund-raising, said he and a partner spent about seven hours a day running dozens of pro-Sanders social media groups. His Twitter page boosts Mr. Sanders and raises doubts about his rivals to more than 17,000 followers.

“Some of my followers — there are a few of them that have a little bit of an issue with their mouth or something like that,” Mr. Latstetter said, adding that he was unsure if he would support any of the other Democratic candidates if they won the nomination. “I also have my moments, too, where I have my limits, and I come out fighting.”

Such digital combat has seeped perceptibly into popular culture. The singer John Legend, endorsing Ms. Warren in a tweet this month, added a note of caution for Sanders supporters: “Try not to drive people away with your nastiness. I will happily vote for him if he wins the primary. Chill.”

This did not necessarily land with its intended audience.

“Some of you millionaires need to realize that many of us actually *need* Bernie Sanders to win the Presidency,” one account replied. “We can’t just ‘chill.’”

Nick Corasaniti contributed reporting.

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T Minus 8 Days: A Frenetic Weekend on the Trail in Iowa

DES MOINES — With the Iowa caucuses a week away and senators briefly sprung from their impeachment-induced confinement on Capitol Hill, the Democratic presidential candidates and their surrogates spilled out across Iowa on Sunday.

They gave their stump speeches. They took photos and shook hands. They tried mightily to address the elephant in the room — a series of polls showing Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont pulling even with or ahead of the longtime front-runner, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. — without appearing to concern themselves with it.

Former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., carried on the long tradition of campaign-trail subtweeting, attacking Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden unmistakably but without naming them.

“The country will be crying out for a president capable of unifying and healing the American people,” Mr. Buttigieg said at a rally in West Des Moines, a clear shot at Mr. Sanders.

Later, at a town hall televised on Fox News, he said that he had “heard some folks saying” that now was not the time for voters to take a risk — Team Biden is running an ad arguing exactly that — but that the real risk “would be to try to go up against this president with the same old playbook that we’ve been relying on.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who has gained ground in recent weeks but is still polling a distant fifth here, tried to focus on crowd sizes instead — and on somewhat better poll results she received in New Hampshire, which will vote the week after Iowa.

“We are seeing this overwhelming number of people showing up on a Sunday afternoon,” Ms. Klobuchar told reporters in Ames. “We’re seeing the poll that we just saw this morning in New Hampshire, in double digits, just a few points away from many of my maybe more well-known competitors on the national stage.”

And besides, how much attention should voters pay to polls to begin with? “Let’s see what happens when people are actually showing up,” she said.

Westlake Legal Group democratic-candidates-20-questions-promo-1579898311650-articleLarge-v10 T Minus 8 Days: A Frenetic Weekend on the Trail in Iowa Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Klobuchar, Amy Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

20 (More) Questions With Democrats

We sat down again with Democratic candidates and asked them a new set of questions. Watch their answers.

As always, the undertone — and sometimes the overtone — was each candidate’s so-called electability against President Trump. From Davenport in the east to Sioux City in the west, the candidates circled one another, jostling to cast themselves as the most viable contender for November.

“Can we just address it right here? Women win,” Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said at an event in Davenport, invoking the same argument she made at this month’s debate when she noted that she and Ms. Klobuchar were the only people onstage who had never lost an election. “Women candidates have been outperforming men candidates since Donald Trump was elected.”

Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden, meanwhile, continued to spar with each other, each seeing the other — justifiably, based on recent polls — as his biggest threat.

After a weeklong public fight over their records on Social Security, they turned to climate. At an event in Perry on Sunday, Mr. Sanders shot back at Mr. Biden for his remark a couple days earlier that “not a single solitary scientist” considered Mr. Sanders’s climate plan workable.

“Well, Joe, you’re wrong,” Mr. Sanders said. “Many leading scientists agree with our plan, and in a few days we’re going to have a long list of scientists who agree with our plan.”

In Des Moines, Mr. Biden drew voters’ attention to what is arguably his biggest strength nationally: his strong support from black voters. It is a key part of the same electability argument that echoed across the state all weekend: Black voters are an essential constituency in the Democratic Party.

“I know a lot of folks out here were wondering, ‘Why does Biden get such overwhelming support from the African-American community?’” Mr. Biden said. “Because that’s what I’m part of. That’s where my political identity comes from. And it’s the single most loyal constituency I’ve ever had.”

As for the Iowans he and everyone else were courting, some of them ended the weekend as torn as they had begun it.

“It’s hard to tell. They are all so similar,” said Ann Clary, a state budget analyst who attended one of Mr. Buttigieg’s events on Sunday but is also considering caucusing for Mr. Biden and Ms. Klobuchar. “Sometimes I can’t fall asleep at night. I just can’t stop thinking about it.”

As night fell, Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg went on with business as usual, looking forward to another full week of events. And then there were the senators.

Round and round the state they went: Ms. Warren from Davenport to Cedar Rapids, Ms. Klobuchar from Waterloo to Ames to Des Moines, Mr. Sanders from Perry to Storm Lake to Sioux City.

They had to hurry, because soon the day, and their window, would be over.

“I could have literally done these in every town and revisited all 99 counties again,” Ms. Klobuchar told reporters wistfully after an event in Ames. “That was one of my secret plans, but it’s now been dashed, since I turn into a pumpkin at midnight.”

Reporting was contributed by Nick Corasaniti from Ames, Iowa; Sydney Ember from Ames and Perry; Reid J. Epstein from West Des Moines and Storm Lake; Shane Goldmacher from Davenport; Thomas Kaplan from Des Moines; and Lisa Lerer from Perry.

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5 Things We Learned Interviewing 2020 Democrats (Again)

Westlake Legal Group SUPERCUT_THUMB-facebookJumbo 5 Things We Learned Interviewing 2020 Democrats (Again) Yang, Andrew (1975- ) Warren, Elizabeth Steyer, Thomas F Presidential Election of 2020 Klobuchar, Amy Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Bloomberg, Michael R

The first time we interviewed the Democratic presidential candidates, late last spring, we had a pile of yes-or-no, either-or policy questions to ask, many of them representing litmus-test issues at the heart of Democratic politics: single-payer health care and foreign wars, wealth concentration and tech regulation.

Our second round of interviews was different. For starters, we asked fewer candidates to participate, inviting only the ones with a realistic shot at accumulating a substantial number of delegates.

[20 (More) Questions for Democrats]

And we asked them, for the most part, a different genre of questions, exploring not just policy issues but also their ideas about leadership and the presidency.

Our hope was to produce a set of interviews that would guide voters trying to make a difficult final decision about which candidate they’d like to put in the country’s most powerful job.

We invited nine candidates to be interviewed, and seven accepted: Pete Buttigieg, Michael R. Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang, Elizabeth Warren, and Cory Booker. Mr. Booker was interviewed in December, but has since dropped out of the race. (Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Bernie Sanders declined to participate.)

Here are some of our takeaways.

[See their responses on investigating Mr. Trump.]

Nearly every Democratic candidate we interviewed left the door open to investigating Mr. Trump and members of his family, even after the president has left office. Ms. Warren and Mr. Steyer sounded particularly determined to hold Mr. Trump to account.

“Nobody is above the law, not even the president of the United States, not even the family,” Ms. Warren said.

“I don’t think there’s any question but that Mr. Trump has broken the law,” Mr. Steyer said.

But all of the candidates, including Ms. Warren and Mr. Steyer, suggested they would defer to the Justice Department on how to handle Mr. Trump and his family. That determination, Ms. Klobuchar said, was “not the job of the president.”

And some candidates sounded more eager to turn the page on the Trump administration than to probe allegations of wrongdoing.

“I think it’s a very bad pattern to fall into, where the administration of a government investigates the previous administration,” Mr. Yang said, adding that he would prefer to “move the country forward and unify around the new president.”

[See their responses about their running mates and debating Trump.]

We asked all the candidates to sketch their approaches to the general election, and describe how they would choose a running mate and debate President Trump. In every case, they said they would not seek to fight fire with fire, but instead harry the president in a way that would undercut the foundations of his political strength.

Mr. Buttigieg said he would make sure Mr. Trump could not simply “change the subject” with lies and outlandish claims. Ms. Klobuchar said her focus would be an “optimistic economic agenda,” while Mr. Yang said he believed he could make Mr. Trump “seem totally ridiculous,” in part by using humor. Both Ms. Warren and Mr. Bloomberg said they would not make a general-election debate all about the president.

“Number one, don’t waste your time criticizing him and telling everybody what he’s done wrong,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “People know that. Tell them what you’re going to do.”

In discussing the vice presidency, the candidates converged on a common set of themes: they would seek out running mates, they said, who shared their worldviews and who were ready to assume the presidency. Ms. Warren said she wanted a running mate “who wants to be in the fight — I mean, all the way in.”

For Mr. Steyer, the top priority in a running mate was conveyed in one word: “Diversity.”

[See their responses about U.S. relations with Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia, which foreign leader they admire and what foreign leaders should know about them.]

Some of the candidates wrestled more visibly than others with questions about the role of the United States in Hong Kong, and its alliance with Saudi Arabia. Every candidate expressed some level of concern about the American relationship with the Saudis, though some were more pointed than others: “We have to rethink our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Ms. Warren said.

With few exceptions, the candidates said the American president should be a public champion of democratic values, including in Hong Kong. “Those who are rising up in Hong Kong demanding democracy deserve to know that they have a friend in the United States of America,” Mr. Buttigieg said.

But Mr. Bloomberg said he favored a more discreet approach, run through “backdoor” communication with China: “The people of Hong Kong certainly don’t need us weighing in and increasing the tension,” he said.

Mr. Yang, meanwhile, said the United States should support “people who are protesting for self determination and democracy,” but added that Hong Kong was in a “gray area diplomatically.”

Asked to name a foreign leader they admire, many of the candidates singled out Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany; Mr. Steyer described her as the “leader of the free world.” Mr. Buttigieg pointed to Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand as an inspiring figure from a “new generation,” while Mr. Yang named Justin Trudeau of Canada for bringing a “different approach to politics.”

And asked to name something about themselves that foreign leaders should know, nearly every candidate stressed their own honesty and candor. The “most important thing that foreign leaders should know about me,” Mr. Buttigieg said, “is that I will keep my word.”

“They also need to know that I am a person of trust,” Ms. Klobuchar said, “that I keep my threats and I keep my promises.”

[See their responses on the Obama years.]

None of the Democratic candidates has shown any appetite for criticizing President Barack Obama. So, we wondered what they would say if we asked whether Barack Obama made any mistakes at all. Some of them responded by dodging the core of the question: Mr. Buttigieg and Ms. Warren, for instance, declined to name anything in particular they thought Mr. Obama did wrong.

But while all of them swathed their answers in lavish praise for the Obama record, several offered revealing hints of criticism. Mr. Bloomberg said the former president should have moved faster to fill vacant judgeships, while Ms. Klobuchar called the failure to take on prescription drug pricing a significant missed opportunity. Mr. Steyer faulted the former president for having spent too much time trying to work with Republican adversaries whom Mr. Steyer said would “never compromise.”

“He trusted the Republicans too much, too long,” Mr. Steyer said.

Most interesting of all may have been Mr. Yang, who delivered a big-picture critique of the Obama economic record: “When we had a fundamental choice to either recapitalize the banks or keep Americans in their homes, we chose the banks, we bailed out Wall Street,” Mr. Yang said. That is a view several other candidates in the race surely share, even if they did not say it out loud.

[See their responses about bad habits, books and celebrity crushes.]

While the interviews were mostly serious, eat-your-vegetables questions, we couldn’t resist adding a bit of dessert. And so we asked all of the candidates to name their bad habits, the last book they read and their celebrity crushes.

The bad habits were almost endearingly normal.

“I like Cheez-Its,” Mr. Bloomberg said, “which are probably not good for you.”

“I bite my nails,” said Mr. Buttigieg.

Ms. Klobuchar had perhaps our favorite bad habit: “The New York Times crossword puzzle,” she said. “So, my problem is that I do it at night.”

Some candidates were willing to name a celebrity crush, but most were not. Without hesitation, Ms. Warren named The Rock. “Just look at that man!” she said. “He’s eye candy!”

Mr. Booker, who left the race after recording his interview, had perhaps the easiest answer to that question.

“Yeah, I have a celebrity crush,” he said. “Her name is Rosario Dawson, and I happen to live in the wonderful world where I am ridiculously blessed that she has a crush back on me.”

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Ashley Judd Wants the Next Women’s March to Be a ‘Victory March’

Westlake Legal Group 25judd01-facebookJumbo Ashley Judd Wants the Next Women’s March to Be a ‘Victory March’ Women and Girls Warren, Elizabeth Presidential Election of 2020 New Hampshire Judd, Ashley Hanover (NH) #MeToo Movement

NASHUA, N.H — Can Ashley Judd help Senator Elizabeth Warren’s chances here?

Eighteen days ahead of the state primary, Warren supporters at Ms. Judd’s three-stop tour on Friday were not entirely sure. Per recent history, the impact of celebrity political endorsements has been decidedly mixed.

But with Ms. Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, having a bumpy go of it in the polls, and the timeworn question of whether a woman can win the presidency having made its way front and center of the 2020 contest just in time for actual voting to begin, Ms. Judd’s whistle-stop visits to Hanover, Lebanon and Nashua gave Warren backers in this early voting state, at the very least, a lift.

“My heart’s still beating so fast,” said Amanda Denaro, 24, after Ms. Judd swept out of the cramped “Warren for President” offices in Lebanon. “She’s the perfect woman to do this. It’s powerful women coming together.”

Ms. Judd announced just over three weeks ago that Ms. Warren had her vote, and, with the senator stuck in Washington for the impeachment trial, the actress and activist showed up as Ms. Warren’s surrogate, with the promise to return and knock on doors.

Ms. Judd brings feminist bona fides, and seemed well positioned to answer the “electability” question, or at least urge people to believe that Elizabeth Warren could win — with their votes.

“We have the fight of our lives on our hands, not just for what we believe in but for the very democracy of this country,” Ms. Judd said, later adding, “Thank God Elizabeth has a plan for everything.”

The hope is that Ms. Judd’s unique position in celebritydom might sway undecided voters, her activism in recent years having eclipsed her movie and television work. In October 2017, Ms. Judd became the first famous actress to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, making her an early face of the #MeToo movement. She had already stuck her head above the parapet that year, hitting back at sexist online abuse in a TED Talk, and, at the first Women’s March, delivering a searing performance of “Nasty Woman,” an anti-Trump poem written by a 19-year old; it was met both rapturously and with opprobrium, including from Ms. Judd’s sister, the singer Wynonna Judd (“The whole thing is toxic,” Wynonna Judd wrote in a tweet.)

Ms. Warren’s New Hampshire supporters said they were very grateful that Ashley Judd came their way.

“It encourages all of us little folks who, you know, who are trying to accomplish the same thing,” said Mary Ann Haagen, 74, a Warren supporter and retired teacher who showed up to see Ms. Judd speak in Lebanon.

Things kicked off midday Friday in a campus building at Dartmouth College, where students filled a few dozen seats and ate pizza until the muted thump of approaching heels on the carpet pulled their attention away from their phones.

Ms. Judd rounded a corner, smiling. “I’ll hope you show me some mercy today,” she said, adding that it was her first outing on behalf of Ms. Warren as she rifled through sheets of talking points.

She told the crowd that she got her first taste of activism in college, and said though she knew Ms. Warren only slightly, had been intrigued ever since Ms. Warren’s first appearance in 2009 on “The Daily Show.” She drew parallels between the experiences of Ms. Warren’s parents in Oklahoma and her own impoverished Kentucky kin: her “Papaw” Judd who had a filling station and kept his money rolled in a paper sack in the trunk of his car, and her Papaw and Mamaw Ciminella, who ran an aluminum siding business. Like Ms. Warren’s parents, she said, they all were one health shock away from financial catastrophe.

Afterward, she walked up to people sitting in the front row and said, “Hi, I’m Ashley.” She asked people, one by one, where they were from. “Los Angeles,” one young woman replied. “So you ended up in the cold weather — a bit of a shock,” Ms. Judd said. “I see you have a T-shirt on,” she added with a laugh. “I hope I did O.K.,” she said to another, “I’m just getting started.”

At her second stop, in Lebanon, she was introduced by Deb Nelson, the chairwoman of the Hanover-Lyme Democratic Party, who noted that along with Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, Ms. Judd had earned a master’s in public administration from Harvard and won a dean’s award there.

Ms. Nelson lamented the actress’s 2013 decision to not challenge Mitch McConnell for his Kentucky Senate seat.

“Just think for a minute about how different life would be had Ashley Judd run for the Senate, because she would have been elected,” Ms. Nelson said.

Speaking without notes this time, Ms. Judd hit more talking points, extolling Ms. Warren’s climate and environmental commitments, and lamenting the Trump administration’s rollback of protections of wetlands and streams as “profoundly upsetting.”

She delved into painful personal history to highlight the importance of Roe v. Wade. After she had been raped by a boy she had known since second grade, Ms. Judd said she opted to have an abortion. Had she not, she said, her rapist would have been granted paternity rights. “Patriarchy and misogyny,” she said, “is the water in which we swim.”

Her last of stop of the day, at a “nanobrewery” called Liquid Therapy in Nashua, not far from the Massachusetts border, was the busiest, and, with after-work beer flowing, the liveliest. Wrapping up her talk, Ms. Judd told the crowd she never wanted to have a reason to repeat the “Nasty Woman” poem again. “So let’s make sure the next Women’s March, it’s a victory march.”

The crowd cheered, and then, among themselves, debated Ms. Warren’s chances, reaching little in the way of consensus.

Elizabeth Burton, 36, said while she loved Ms. Judd’s speech, celebrity endorsements rarely carried weight. Burton was also discouraged by Ms. Warren’s struggles in the polls.

“It’s tough being a woman in the United States right now,” Ms. Burton said, “I hate to say it, because it sucks, but I feel like people in this country want a man.”

Standing a few feet away, Vicki Meagher, 69, said that while she found Ms. Warren to be the most impressive candidate, she was voting for former Vice President Joseph R Biden Jr., because she believed he would get more support. “That’s my one issue,” Ms. Meagher said, “Who do I think will win?”

But Jennifer Bernet, 57, a state representative, said the race was still fluid, and dismissed talk of Ms. Warren’s electability as a canard.

“If somebody’s elected, they’re electable,” Ms. Bernet said. “Nobody thought Trump was going to be electable at this time in 2016. Look what happened.”

Wendy Thomas, a mother of six and “water warrior” environmentalist who won her race for state representative in 2018, said she had faith that, this decade, American women would continue stepping to the fore.

The whole question of “electability,” Ms. Thomas said, amounted to little more than a Republican talking point.

“Women rock the cradle,” Ms. Thomas said, “Woman are the people that are going to right this ship.”

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A Major Fear for Democrats: Will the Party Come Together by November?

FORT DODGE, Iowa — Democrats have always represented a cacophonous array of individuals and interests, but the so-called big tent is now stretching over a constituency so unwieldy that it’s easy to understand why voters remain torn this close to Iowa, where no clear front-runner has emerged.

The party’s voters are splintered across generational, racial and ideological lines, prompting some liberals to express reluctance about rallying behind a moderate presidential nominee, and those closer to the political middle to voice unease with a progressive standard-bearer.

The lack of a united front has many party leaders anxious — and for good reason. In over 50 interviews across three early-voting states — Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina — a number of Democratic primary voters expressed grave reservations about the current field of candidates, and in some cases a clear reluctance to vote for a nominee who was too liberal or too centrist for their tastes.

As she walked out of a campaign event for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. in Fort Dodge this week, Barbara Birkett said she was leaning toward caucusing for Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and dismissed the notion of even considering the two progressives in the race, Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“No, I’m more of a Republican and that’s just a little bit too far to the left for me,” Ms. Birkett, a retiree. She said that she’d like to support a Democrat this November because of her disdain for Mr. Trump but that Mr. Sanders would “be a hard one.”

Elsewhere on the increasingly broad Democratic spectrum, Pete Doyle, who attended a Sanders rally in Manchester, N.H., last weekend, had a ready answer when asked about voting for Mr. Biden: “Never in a million years.” He said that if Mr. Biden won the nomination, he would either vote for a third-party nominee or sit out the general election.

Westlake Legal Group primary-election-guide-promostill-articleLarge A Major Fear for Democrats: Will the Party Come Together by November? Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Biden, Joseph R Jr

Ready, Set, Vote: Here’s Everything You Need to Know for the 2020 Primaries

The Iowa caucuses are around the corner. As you get ready for primary season, take a look at our cheat sheet on the race.

The uncertainty about party unity has been exacerbated in recent days by clashes among the Democratic candidates, as well as one involving a prominent party leader.

Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren have accused one another of lying about a private conversation in 2018 over whether a woman could become president; Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden have attacked each other over Social Security and corruption; and Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, has come off the sidelines to stoke her rivalry with Mr. Sanders, declaring that “nobody likes him.”

The lack of consensus among Democratic voters, 10 days before the presidential nominating primary begins with Iowa caucuses, has led some party leaders to make unusually fervent and early pleas for unity. On Monday alone, a pair of influential Democratic congressmen issued strikingly similar warnings to very different audiences in very different states.

“We get down to November, there’s only going to be one nominee,” Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat, said at a ceremony for Martin Luther King’s Birthday at the State House in Columbia. “Nobody can afford to get so angry because your first choice did not win. If you stay home in November, you are going to get Trump back.”

“No matter who our nominee is, we can’t make the mistake that we made in ’16,” Representative Dave Loebsack of Iowa said that night in Cedar Rapids as he introduced his preferred 2020 candidate, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., at a town hall meeting. “We all got to get behind that person so we can get Donald Trump out of office,” Mr. Loebsack added.

In interviews, Democratic leaders say they believe the party’s fights over such politically fraught issues as treasured entitlement programs, personal integrity, and gender and electability could hand Mr. Trump and foreign actors ammunition with which to depress turnout for their standard-bearer.

“I am concerned about facing another disinformation campaign from the other side,” said Representative Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, a Biden supporter who was uneasy enough that he recently sought out high-profile congressional backers of some of the other contenders to discuss an eventual détente. “For those of us who are elected officials, we need to exercise real leadership to make sure all of the camps are immediately united after all this is over.”

Most Democrats believe that the deep revulsion their party’s voters and activists share for Mr. Trump will ultimately help heal primary season wounds and rally support behind whoever emerges as the nominee. “If it means getting rid of Donald Trump, they would swallow Attila the Hun,” State Representative Todd Rutherford, the Democratic leader of the South Carolina House, said of his party’s rank-and-file.

And some leading Democrats were less worried about recovering from the cut-and-thrust of the primary fights than figuring out how to address the deep fissures within their coalition that this race has exposed.

“The Democrats cover everybody from Bernie to Bloomberg and that does present a real problem in terms of making a decision,” said former Gov. Jerry Brown of California, himself a former presidential hopeful, referring to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York. “It’s not blendable at this point. And if the division continues you’re not going to get a first-ballot candidate.”

The political and cultural distance between the two leading Democratic candidates, Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders, is easy enough to grasp from their events.

A rally for Mr. Sanders in Exeter, N.H., last weekend featured the actor John Cusack, who introduced his candidate by invoking left-wing writers like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and denouncing neoliberalism and imperialism.

The event had few of the trappings of Mr. Biden’s events, like the Pledge of Allegiance and a call for blessings upon the American military and the restoration of consensus and comity in Washington. The former vice president does not ask his audiences to raise their hands if they know anyone arrested for marijuana possession, as Mr. Sanders usually does.

Vivid as the surface differences are between Mr. Sanders and Mr. Biden, what’s even more revealing are the views that emerge in polling and conversations with their supporters.

A new CNN survey showed that about as many Democrats under 50 would be upset or dissatisfied with Mr. Biden as the nominee as they would be enthusiastic. And among those older than 65, views were even starker about Mr. Sanders: just 23 percent said they’d be enthusiastic about him while 33 percent said they’d be upset or dissatisfied.

Mr. Sanders has tried to bolster his standing with older voters, and lessen their ardor for Mr. Biden, by trumpeting his support for Social Security and highlighting the former vice president’s past willingness to consider cuts to the program — a contrast Sanders supporters believe is vital given Mr. Trump’s suggestion this week that he’d pursue entitlement trims.

Interviews with Sanders supporters at his events in New Hampshire and at the King Day gathering in South Carolina revealed a group of progressive activists who were as dedicated to him as they were in 2016 — and who were uneasy about his rivals, especially Mr. Biden. That was borne out in a new poll of New Hampshire primary voters this week from Suffolk University, which indicated that nearly a quarter of the Vermont senator’s supporters would not commit to backing the party’s nominee if it was not Mr. Sanders.

That number could drop by November if Mr. Sanders does not win the nomination: research shows that most of Mr. Sanders’s supporters eventually rallied to Mrs. Clinton against Mr. Trump. Yet it would not necessarily happen easily, especially if Mr. Sanders’s supporters believe he’s been treated unfairly by the party.

Many Sanders supporters who said they would grudgingly support one of his rivals against Mr. Trump quickly added that that’s all they’d do, ruling out doing the volunteer work that is the lifeblood of all campaigns.

“I just couldn’t morally,” Laura Satkowski said, explaining why she would not canvass or make phone calls on behalf of Mr. Biden. “I don’t like his policies.”

Some pro-Sanders households are mixed.

Michelle McKay and her partner, Bill Davis, came to the South Carolina State House from their home in Raleigh, N.C., she wearing a vest festooned with Sanders buttons, to show their support for their candidate.

“Hell no,” Ms. McKay said about the prospect of backing Mr. Biden. Reminded that North Carolina could be a pivotal state in the general election, she said: “I don’t care. My vote is not going to an establishment Democrat.”

Mr. Davis, though, said that while he didn’t want to vote for anybody besides Mr. Sanders, he’d cast a ballot for any Democrat against Mr. Trump. “I think the party will come together,” he said, as Ms. McKay looked on unconvinced.

For many Democratic leaders, the hope for party unity rests on shared loathing of Mr. Trump. His divisive record and conduct in office helped propel Democrats to a new House majority in 2018 and a number of governorships in the last three years.

Yet while his astonishing election and often demagogic politics have accelerated the rise of the left, energizing a new generation of progressives and socialists, Mr. Trump’s presidency has also enlarged the moderate wing of the party, creating a slice of de facto Democrats among the Republicans and right-leaning independents who cannot abide him.

Phil Richardson, a farmer who came to the Biden event in Fort Dodge with his wife, Christy, said he’d be happy to vote for Mr. Sanders.

But Mr. Richardson said his worry is that others in his community would find it harder to support somebody so liberal.

“I’ve had some of my farmer friends tell me they could probably live with Biden but he couldn’t go for Bernie,” he said.

Over in Dubuque, Iowa, Ron Davis said flatly that he’d support Mr. Trump if Mr. Sanders was the nominee.

An Ames, Iowa, native who now lives in suburban Detroit, Mr. Davis and his wife, Barbara Rom, are retirees traversing Iowa as political tourists this week — “candidate groupies,” he called them — and trying to decide who to support in Michigan’s primary in March.

On Wednesday they came to the University of Dubuque to see Mr. Buttigieg, who impressed Mr. Davis. Mr. Sanders, however, would be “too radical a change,” he said. Ms. Rom said she’d back Mr. Sanders if it meant defeating Mr. Trump.

If it all seems messy, and the party hopelessly fragmented, that’s for good reason, said Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor and health and human services secretary who grew up in Democratic politics as the daughter of a former Ohio governor.

“This primary is a reflection of the politics of the country at large,” Ms. Sebelius said. “There are clearly differences among people who still feel incremental change is the best way of getting things done, and folks who say we need more to pursue more radical change.”

She said she’d be more worried if Democrats didn’t have Mr. Trump as “a rallying cry,” but conceded there was no candidate on the horizon who could fully unify the party’s factions.

“There is no savior who’s going to rescue us from the current state of affairs,” she said. “We’re all going to need to save each other.”

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She’s the Next President. Wait, Did You Read That Right?

Westlake Legal Group 24pronouns1-facebookJumbo She’s the Next President. Wait, Did You Read That Right? Women and Girls Warren, Elizabeth Voting and Voters United States Politics and Government Presidential Election of 2020 Language and Languages Klobuchar, Amy Harris, Kamala D Democratic Party Debates (Political) Clinton, Hillary Rodham

It was a blip of a moment during the Democratic debate last week, one perhaps overshadowed by a long discussion of the prospect of a female president. Responding to a question about climate change, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said, “I will do everything a president can do all by herself on the first day.”

All by herself. Did you clock the use of that word?

A study released this month shows that you did — and that, in fact, it may have cost you a third of a second in reading time just now.

Her. It’s a three-letter pronoun that, despite the seemingly endless debate over whether a woman can become president, feels relatively benign. But what if its use, or an unconscious aversion to its use, had some small power to influence voter perception? Could something as simple as a pronoun reflect, or even affect, the way voters understand power?

That’s the question raised by the research, conducted by cognitive scientists and linguists at M.I.T., the University of Potsdam and the University of California, San Diego, who surveyed people during the run-up to the 2016 election. Wanting to understand how world events might influence language, the researchers hypothesized that the possibility a woman would be elected president at that time might override the implicit bias people had toward referring to the president as “he.”

But what they found was that Americans — even young, self-identified Democratic women who believed Hillary Clinton would win — were reluctant to use “she” even in the context of a hypothetical president.

“There seemed to be a real bias against referring to the next president as ‘she,’” said Roger Levy, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at M.I.T. and one of the authors of the study.

When the researchers watched subjects in a reading setting — they were asked to read a short passage about the next president, pressing a button on a screen to reveal each word of the sentence — their bias was even more pronounced: The word “she,” when referring to the future president, made people cognitively stumble, leading to a “considerable disruption” in reading time, said Titus von der Malsburg, another author of the study and a linguist at the University of Potsdam, in Germany.

“People had difficulties reading ‘she’ even if the text had previously used ‘she,’ showing how persistent and deeply ingrained this bias is,” he said.

So could struggling to say or read the word “she” in the context of a president affect our willingness to vote for a woman?

“That’s of course the million-dollar question,” said Dr. von der Malsburg.

He noted that if people gravitated toward male language when talking about presidents, that could indirectly contribute to a culture in which women were not seen as typical candidates.

“And that, in turn, would likely influence election outcomes because women would have to do extra work to convince voters that they can do the job,” he said.

When it comes to women in politics — and specifically, women in the presidency — often lurking behind language are unconscious assumptions about women in power.

“We are uneasy with the president as ‘she’ because encountering it forces us to have in mind a new conception of ‘president,’” the linguist Robin Lakoff said.

Dr. Lakoff, whose book “Language and Woman’s Place” helped create the field of gender linguistics in the 1970s, said that language tended to reflect the beliefs of a particular moment in time.

But it can also shape them.

Research has found that the use of the pronoun “he” can create a male bias in readers, that countries with gendered language have higher gender inequality and that even subtly sexist language may influence voters’ likelihood of supporting a particular candidate.

In recent years, some governments and organizations have started paying more attention to the power of words, taking steps to update or replace gendered terms.

In 2013, Washington State joined Florida and Minnesota in combing through its state codes and statutes to adjust terms like “ombudsman” (now “ombuds”) to be gender neutral. As Liz Watson, then senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, said at the time: “Words matter. Words help shape our perceptions about what opportunities are available to women and men.”

Administrators at Yale announced in 2017 that they would replace the words “freshman” and “upperclassman” with “first-year” and “upper-level” students, joining several other universities that have informally made the change. And the singular “they” — increasingly popular as both as substitute for “he or she” and as a gender-neutral pronoun for those who identify as nonbinary — was recently declared the “Word of the Decade” by the American Dialect Society.

That would seem like progress, said the historian Barbara J. Berg. Yet when it comes to the halls of power, she said, the masculine “remains the default in our language.”

It is popular these days to tell the story of Abigail Adams, wife of the founding father John, who urged her husband in a letter in 1776 to “remember the ladies.” Lesser known is that his reply, in a letter back, called her request “saucy.” (The word “she,” of course, does not appear anywhere in the Declaration of Independence, nor does the word “woman.”)

And while, over the years, words like “mailman,” “policeman” and “stewardess” have been replaced with terms like “mail carrier,” “police officer” and “flight attendant,” there are still plenty of phrases for which “he” connotes power. Think “manning the command post,” “maestro” or even “guy” as a way to describe expertise. “As in, ‘He’s a stats guy’ or ‘He’s a policy guy,’” said Philip N. Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland.

The 2018 midterm elections broke all sorts of records — and a historic number of women ran for office and won — and yet they also provided ample opportunity to hear (and see) the phrase “freshman congresswoman.” Doesn’t it sound sort of funny?

Deborah Tannen, a linguist at Georgetown University, described how she had recently spoken with a group of female judges, some of whom recalled being referred to as “sir” when on the bench. Presumably, Dr. Tannen said, the speakers were nervous — and “sir” was an attempt to show respect.

“‘Sir’ is associated with respect to an extent that ‘ma’am’ is not,” Dr. Tannen said, noting that she, too, had occasionally stumbled over such words.

Once, she recalled, at an event in which Michelle Obama was speaking, a friend remarked that “Dr. Biden” would also be in attendance.

“I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I didn’t know Joe Biden had a Ph.D.,’” she said. “And of course it was his wife, who I had met, and who I knew had a Ph.D. So even I do it, Dr. Tannen.”

And then there’s “Madam.” During the 1970s, feminists fought for the adoption of a female equivalent of “Mr.” — one that did not denote marital status — and were largely successful with the honorific “Ms.” But male presidents in the United States are often addressed as “Mr. President,” while a woman — if the way we refer to cabinet secretaries is any indication — would quite likely be “Madam President.”

“‘Madam’ could be a term of respect, but it’s also the head of a brothel,” said Dr. Berg, the historian. “So it’s like this constant subtle reminder of a woman’s status.”

But a new breed of candidates may be flipping that script.

During the recent Democratic debate, in addition to Ms. Warren’s use of “herself” in reference to the next president on more than one occasion, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said in her closing statement, “We need a candidate who is actually going to bring people with her.”

Senator Kamala Harris of California, who dropped out of the race late last year, often did the same when she was running. As California’s first female attorney general, she sifted through the language that was written into the law — statutes referring to the attorney general as “he” or “his” — and changed them.

“I’ve always been very aware that when it comes to women holding leadership roles, we are sometimes asking people to see what they have not seen before,” Ms. Harris said in an email. “As our government becomes more reflective of the people it represents and the voices at the table become more diverse, it is important for us to really check how we are creating and supporting an inclusive environment — and a big part of that is about how we use language.”

Of course, one might argue there’s something of a feedback loop: The language reflects the culture. The culture won’t change until there is a winning candidate who upends the old biases. But those running for that spot may be impeded by the incessant talking about gender.

The researchers say the United Kingdom may provide an encouraging case study.

In 2017, they replicated the study there, in the lead-up to an election to determine the next prime minister.

Theresa May was prime minister at the time and was expected to win — but she was not the first woman to hold that post. (That was Margaret Thatcher.)

When referring to the next prime minister, the British study participants were more likely to use the pronoun “she” than “he.”

Sharon Attia contributed research.

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Stuck in the Senate as Their 2020 Rivals Have Iowa to Themselves

Westlake Legal Group 22candidates-impeachment1-facebookJumbo Stuck in the Senate as Their 2020 Rivals Have Iowa to Themselves Warren, Elizabeth Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Klobuchar, Amy impeachment Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

WASHINGTON — Hours into the first long night of President Trump’s impeachment trial on Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont kept checking his watch. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts sipped hot water — one of two drinks allowed in the chamber — to warm up. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota jotted down notes. And Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado stood and listened.

Around the same time, more than 1,000 miles west at a community college in Fort Dodge, Iowa, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. was warning an audience about the divided nation that the next president would inherit.

And at a veterans hall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., was coming out swinging against Mr. Trump, prompting 1,200 voters to chant “Pete! Pete!”

“Wouldn’t it be nice to put the tweets behind us?” Mr. Buttigieg said.

Something extraordinary is happening to the Democratic presidential primary: An intensely competitive race has been thrown into a state of semi-suspended animation less than two weeks before caucusing begins. Three candidates who have a shot at breakout performances in Iowa on Feb. 3, Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Klobuchar, are suddenly stuck at the Senate impeachment trial in Washington, while their rivals have the campaign trail largely to themselves.

Normally the final two weeks before the caucuses are a frenetic blitz of four to six events a day for each candidate, barreling from the Mississippi River in the east to the Missouri River in the west. Instead, Ms. Warren, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Klobuchar — as well as Mr. Bennet, who is averaging less than 1 percent in Iowa polls — are in their Senate seats for many hours on end, operating under a vow of near-silence, unable to see and be seen by the hundreds of voters they would normally be courting from morning to night.

They are putting their campaign needs in the hands of their young field organizers, who are knocking doors in subfreezing temperatures in Iowa, and political surrogates who are standing in for them at events. Among those on deck are Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York for Mr. Sanders; former Secretary Julián Castro, his twin brother, Representative Joaquin Castro of Texas, and the actress and activist Ashley Judd for Ms. Warren; and Phill Drobnick, a Minnesotan who coached the Olympic gold medal-winning men’s curling team in 2018, for Ms. Klobuchar.

Winning Iowa usually depends on candidates making strong closing arguments and sealing the deal in person with undecided caucusgoers. But the senators are counting on their political organizations and their weekend fly-ins when the trial is adjourned to carry the day.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg have wasted no time angling for an advantage, traveling across Iowa on Tuesday and Wednesday as the trial was getting underway, and making plans to devote precious time to campaigning later this week in New Hampshire and South Carolina, respectively. Candidates normally would never leave Iowa at this late stage, but Mr. Biden and Mr. Buttigieg don’t have to worry about Ms. Warren or Mr. Sanders, their chief rivals, fighting for caucus votes on the ground.

“Tomorrow I will be in an impeachment trial,” Mr. Sanders told supporters Monday night in Des Moines. “How long it lasts? Honestly don’t know. I am not going to be able to be here as much as I would like. So you guys are going to have to carry the ball.”

In Iowa, several voters said it wasn’t fair to judge the candidates based on whether or not they were present in the state.

As she waited to hear from Mr. Biden on Tuesday evening, Pam Rose, 65, of Fort Dodge, said that it was “unfortunate” that the senators had to be off the trail, but stressed that she did not hold it against them.

“Their job is important,” she said. “It’s not fair to ask if Joe has an advantage if he’s not in Washington.”

On Wednesday, as the senators arrived at the Capitol for party lunch meetings before the trial started up again, Mr. Buttigieg was in Dubuque, comforting a woman seeking laws to speed the development of experimental drugs to treat her A.L.S.

Speaking before an audience of hundreds, he seemed to go out of his way to describe the time he has spent in Iowa, citing voter after voter he has encountered in the state in the past year — perhaps a pointed reminder that several of his rivals were absent.

When asked about climate change, he recalled a visit to a tiny town in the western part of the state. “I’m thinking about a kid in Shenandoah who raised his hand and asked me how farm families could be part of the solution,” he said.

A little later, as senators were preparing for another marathon session, Mr. Biden reminded voters in Mason City of the great responsibility they had as residents of the leadoff caucus state, before hitting back at a reporter who had pressed him on his tensions with Mr. Sanders.

Mr. Biden, a former six–term senator and decades-long evangelist for the chamber, did not seem upset to be missing the historic trial. In fact, he barely tuned in.

“I didn’t get to see it all because I was out here campaigning in Iowa, doing town meetings,” he said in a television interview Wednesday morning. “But what I saw the reruns of, it was — I have a great respect and reverence for the Senate, for real. And I was embarrassed for the institution.”

No one knows how long the trial will last. Could it conclude before the caucuses? Perhaps. Or, as some campaign staff members argue, their voices tinged with a touch of wistfulness, Republicans could vote to end proceedings at any moment.

The uncertainty has led to some flexible scheduling. Ms. Warren plans to travel along the eastern border of Iowa for a series of town halls on Saturday. Or not, if the Senate has other plans. Schedules for Ms. Klobuchar and Mr. Sanders remain even more uncertain, their aides say.

But the candidates are pursuing creative solutions to make up for their absence. Ms. Klobuchar spent her morning in a television studio in Washington, beaming into local stations in Iowa and New Hampshire for interviews that would air while she was in the chamber, and rushed out for a cable interview in the afternoon, during a break in the proceedings. Her daughter took over her Twitter account to detail her own travels across Iowa.

Mark Oehlert, a retired Lutheran pastor who came to hear Mr. Buttigieg speak on Wednesday afternoon, said he was glad Democratic senators were fulfilling their constitutional duty.

“They’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” he said, adding, “I hope that people look more broadly” than who would gain a political edge in Iowa during the Senate trial.

“We want them in the trenches,” Nancy Oehlert, his wife, said, hoping for — though not expecting — a conviction of Mr. Trump in the Senate.

Strict Senate rules, dating back decades, complicate the workings of modern campaigns responding to rapidly changing news cycles. Official decorum guidelines circulated last week banned cellphones and urged senators to “refrain from speaking” with their colleagues during the trial. No food is permitted and only two beverages, water and milk, are allowed. Communication with the outside world happens through notes ferried out of the chamber by Senate pages. When Hillary Clinton assailed Mr. Sanders in an interview published on Tuesday, his team struggled to confirm details about their relationship, saying the senator was difficult to reach.

Walking back into the Capitol on Wednesday morning, Ms. Warren dismissed concerns that her time in Washington could cost her ground in the primary contest. “Some things are more important than politics,” she said.

Aides to Ms. Warren said she had left the Capitol at 2 a.m., after spending the previous twelve hours in near silence, with short breaks to check her phone and grab some salad in the Senate cloakroom with her colleagues. (She passed on the pizza, they reported.)

In Iowa, Mr. Buttigieg’s day ended around 10 p.m., when he met a friend for dinner Tuesday evening before retiring to his hotel. Over the course of nearly 12 hours, his campaign said, he’d addressed nearly 1,800 voters.

Trip Gabriel contributed reporting from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Katie Glueck from Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Emily Cochrane from Washington.

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3 Organizers for 3 Candidates, Under One Roof: This Is Campaigning in Iowa

Westlake Legal Group 00howardcounty1-facebookJumbo 3 Organizers for 3 Candidates, Under One Roof: This Is Campaigning in Iowa Warren, Elizabeth Voting and Voters Primaries and Caucuses Presidential Election of 2020 Iowa Democratic Party Buttigieg, Pete (1982- ) Biden, Joseph R Jr

RICEVILLE, Iowa — Charles Uffelman, a bearded and burly Tennessean who is working in Iowa for Elizabeth Warren, stirred gravy on a stovetop while biscuits rose in the oven.

Jared Sherman, a Pete Buttigieg organizer in a checked lumberjack shirt, scrambled eggs.

Bryan McNamara, a staff member for Joseph R. Biden Jr. who is fond of a light leather jacket in the Midwest winter, poured strong coffee.

“I love these guys, I love organizing alongside them,” Mr. Uffelman said as he and the others prepared a country breakfast on a recent weekday morning.

The Democratic presidential candidates may have thrown some sharp elbows on a debate stage in Des Moines last week. But two and a half hours away, in a farmhouse beneath a wind turbine, with the odor of a hog farm wafting across a rural road, field organizers for three of the combatants have found a way to coexist in harmony as housemates.

“It helps we all have thick skin,” said Mr. McNamara, who has added 8,000 miles and a coat of dust to a sedan with New York plates. “Being able to come home and, you know, if I had a rough day, being able to talk to people and see that we’re all having similar challenges out here — it’s not just our candidate or our campaign — there are issues with rural organizing that we all encounter.”

The monthslong buildup to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation nominating contest, and the challenges of turning out voters to more than 1,000 caucus sites on Feb. 3, have led to a culture of grass-roots organizing in the state unlike anywhere else. All four leading Democratic campaigns, including Bernie Sanders’s team, have dispatched small armies of field organizers, mostly idealistic young people from out of state, to embed themselves in communities.

Mr. McNamara is an organizer for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times Mr. Sherman is an organizer for Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind.Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times

They knock on doors, hold meet-ups of potential supporters and otherwise build out networks of volunteers who play a large part in determining the results of the caucuses. Lack of an Iowa ground game in 2016 was a big part of why Donald J. Trump finished second in the state despite leading in pre-caucus polls. Barack Obama’s enormous organizing footprint in 2008 was largely why his margin of victory exceeded expectations.

“You have to build community around the campaign — it has to feel like a family,” said Mr. Uffelman, 26, the Warren organizer, who has joined a local Methodist church in an effort to meet people and become known.

Mr. McNamara, 22, the Biden representative, held a potluck dinner for volunteers he recruited and people just considering the former vice president. “I love community events that pull our supporters together but also don’t put pressure on them to just make it about the candidate,” he said.

Laura Hubka, who has opened her large home to the organizers rent-free since October, in a windswept region on the Minnesota border, is chairwoman of the Howard County Democratic Party. An area of declining population with many older rural voters, Howard County is famous in political circles for having swung more jarringly than any county in America from Mr. Obama to Mr. Trump. It voted for Mr. Obama by a 21 percentage point margin in 2012 and for Mr. Trump by 20 — a 41-point gyration.

“I’ve been asked 300 times what happened,” Ms. Hubka said. The closest she’s come to an answer is that the Obama-Trump vote was a fed-up rejection of both parties by people who had lost faith in government. The county seat, Cresco, is a town of fewer than 4,000 rarely visited by presidential candidates. A wall mural of standout local wrestlers represents community pride, but downtown storefronts are increasingly going dark.

Also, there was a lot of “Hillary hate” in 2016, Ms. Hubka acknowledged. “We were chased out of yards with rakes while door knocking.”

Some of that sentiment still lingers. Mr. McNamara told of knocking at the door of an older woman who had caucused for Mr. Biden in 2008, only to be turned away by a family member, who shouted: “She doesn’t want to talk to you. Trump 2020!”

“That’s one of those experiences where I said, O.K., this is real,” said Mr. McNamara, who grew up in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Ms. Hubka, 55, an ultrasound technician married to a long-haul truck driver, was a Sanders supporter four years ago, when Howard County Democrats gave the Vermont senator 54 percent of their caucus vote. After the general election, she quit the state party central committee in frustration over the factionalism between supporters of Mr. Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

But she did not stay away long from activism. Ms. Hubka endorsed Mr. Buttigieg, the first county chair in Iowa to do so. She believes Mr. Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., can bridge the divisiveness in her party, in Howard County and in the country.

She does not demonize Trump voters, who include friends and family members. She ticks off some who regret their choice: the husband of a dietitian at the medical center where she works. A conservative official at the Chamber of Commerce angry at the lack of fiscal restraint under Republicans. A “shirttail uncle” of her husband’s, a small farmer hurt by tariffs, who she said “came up to me and put his fist down on the table” and declared he would not vote for Mr. Trump again.

Such voters are not hard to find in Howard County, even if far from the majority. They include Sara Burke, who plans to participate in her first Democratic caucus next month, an abrupt reversal in her short voting history. Ms. Burke, 38, cast her first ballot ever for president in 2016 for Mr. Trump.

At the time, she said, she was “terrified” that Muslim extremists would harm her family in rural Iowa, a fear driven by Mr. Trump that even her 11-year-old son echoed. “He legitimately felt fear; it’s horrible as a parent,” she said.

Her disappointment set in early. She described the president’s bullying speech and braggadocio as “disgusting.”

Mr. Uffelman prepared to canvass for Senator Elizabeth Warren.Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times The three talked over breakfast before starting work.Credit…Jordan Gale for The New York Times

“Democrat or Republican, I can’t support anybody like that,” she said.

The auto parts factory where Ms. Burke works is near full employment, running three shifts, but she said her income from a $21.50 an hour job is barely above the line that would entitle her children to subsidized school lunches. “If I’m at one of the best paying places around here, I should be able to be grateful and do my job and pay for the lunches and not have to need help,” she said. “It’s crazy to me.”

Last year Ms. Burke became active in the political wing of the United Automobile Workers union. She concluded the president was anti-worker. “What I really realize now, and didn’t before, is if he had his way, my God, our children would be working right alongside of us and none of us would be making any money, there would be no union,” she said.

“From what I was paying attention to and where I was getting my information,” Ms. Burke recalled of 2016, “I was not informing myself well at all.”

Neil Shaffer, the chairman of the Republican Party in Howard County, said he saw no signs of a “Trump revolt.” He predicted the general election would turn on the tone of the two major candidates, in a county where many voters have weak partisan identity and dislike divisiveness. “I think honestly this election will have more to do with personalities than with issues,” he said.

Ms. Hubka is not optimistic the county will swing back to the Democrats in November. If she can shave 10 points off Mr. Trump’s 2016 margin, that would be a victory, she said. “I think it’s going to be a horrible, nasty election,” she said.

Even though she favors Mr. Buttigieg, she welcomes all of the organizers staying under her roof. “One of these three people’s candidates is going to be the nominee,” she said.

Usually after dinner, her three lodgers head upstairs to separate rooms to log data from their day or work the phones. “They call until 9, which I’ve advised against because Iowans don’t like to be called after 8,” Ms. Hubka said.

Late at night, the organizers drift down to a bar in the basement. They walk a fine line in talking shop — swapping general stories without sharing details about the caucusgoers they’ve recruited or the canvassing scripts used by their campaigns. “We talk about what we’re doing without actually talking about what we’re doing,” Mr. Uffelman, the Warren organizer, said.

All three find that some of the best parts of the job are the lengthy conversations that rural residents are willing to engage in. Mr. Uffelman, in his Southern lilt, recalled speaking for 30 minutes to a farmer fixing a tractor, who had concerns about his health care and corruption in the farm economy. Mr. Uffelman persuaded him to support Ms. Warren, the Massachusetts senator.

“I’m a farm boy, I grew up on a farm, and you know, being able to talk about what his job is like,” he said, “that’s my favorite part of organizing — you get to hear the story.”

The three men said they have never debated among themselves the No. 1 issue for many Democrats: Who is most electable in November?

“We’ll say, well, I know my candidate’s most electable,” Mr. McNamara said to laughter.

“I think that’s why this dynamic works,” Mr. Sherman, 28, the Buttigieg organizer, who is an Ohio native, said. “Yes, we’re on different teams now, and yes, we think our candidate is the best person to move forward. But once our party has a nominee, we have to work with each other.”

Mr. Sherman’s laptop is a collage of stickers for candidates he has worked for. He said the housemates hope to stay together after Iowa and through Election Day.

“I’m trying to get these guys to come to Ohio,” Mr. Sherman said.

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Trump Fans or Not, Business Owners Are Wary of Warren and Sanders

Westlake Legal Group 00econdems1-facebookJumbo Trump Fans or Not, Business Owners Are Wary of Warren and Sanders Warren, Elizabeth United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Small Business Sanders, Bernard Presidential Election of 2020 Democratic Party Biden, Joseph R Jr

When it comes to President Trump’s economic policies, there is not much that appeals to Grady Cope, the founder of a machining and assembly company in Englewood, Colo.

He doesn’t approve of tariffs, which have disrupted his supply chains and raised costs. He is turned off by the president’s disparagement of immigrants. And while small businesses routinely thank the administration for hacking through a regulatory thicket, he said of the pre-Trump rule book, “I can’t think of one time that it affected me or slowed growth.”

“I lean more to the liberal side of things,” said Mr. Cope, who employs 47 people at his firm, Reata Engineering and Machine Works. Yet even though he supports a higher minimum wage and is open to the idea of “Medicare for all,” he is leery of two of the leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“I probably won’t go as far left on issues as Sanders and Warren,” he said.

Wall Street’s disdain for the bottom-up populist campaigns of Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont has gotten a lot of attention. The candidates’ full-throated attacks on corporate greed, extreme wealth and banking excesses are backed up by ambitious plans to upend the industry’s everyday operations.

Wariness extends far beyond an elite financial fellowship, though, to many small and medium-size businesses whose executives are not reflexively Republican but worry that the ascendancy of a left-wing Democrat would create an anti-business climate. In their view, sweeping plans to remake the health care system or slash the cost of higher education will mean higher taxes for businesses and the middle class, no matter what candidates promise.

But if policy is an issue, so is tone. In campaign speeches and debates, some said, Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren portray businesses as exploiting the American economic system instead of building it, and of contributing to income inequality instead of creating wealth.

Michael Brady, the owner of two employment franchises in Jacksonville, Fla., is one of the independent business executives interviewed who feel unappreciated. “I get up before 6 o’clock every morning and work hard,” he said. “I put 200 people to work every week.”

Mr. Brady, 53, said he voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and Mr. Trump in 2016. Since then, he said, some of the president’s actions and “some of his tweets” have made him cringe.

He said he could vote for a Democrat this year. But he finds several of the economic proposals from the party’s left wing off-putting, mentioning free college tuition and a nationwide $15-an-hour minimum wage.

What particularly irks Mr. Brady, though, are some of Ms. Warren’s statements about successful entrepreneurs’ not having built their businesses entirely on their own. Attacks on the country’s wealthy elite have also grated.

“When did the word millionaire or billionaire become a bad word?” he asked. “I cheer those people on because they’ve lived the American dream.”

Ms. Warren has explained for years that she, too, cheers hard-driven capitalists, but adds that as important as private enterprise is, its successes are built on governmental investments like roads, education, police officers and firefighters. And so the winners, she argues, need to share more of their haul.

To Mr. Brady, though, the comments sound like an insult. “It’s strictly the pro-business mentality that drives me to vote,” he said.

In the meantime, Mr. Trump has fueled such feelings by referring to the Democrats as “radical socialists.”

Democratic moderates warn that a leftward tilt in the party’s presidential nomination could alienate potential swing voters like Mr. Brady. Some point to Mr. Obama’s recent warning that “the average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system.”

“Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality,” Mr. Obama told a group of donors in November.

Candidates like former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have sought to dominate the political center lane. But none has matched the degree of enthusiasm and devotion that Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders have generated among supporters inspired by prospects of visionary change.

The belief that voters are yearning for another moderate alternative recently helped motivate former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts to reverse their decisions to forgo the 2020 election.

The billionaire Mr. Bloomberg, who announced his candidacy in November, has emphasized his background as a self-made business executive. In an early advertisement, he described himself as “a middle-class kid who made good.” Mr. Patrick, a friend of Mr. Obama’s, has positioned himself as someone who wants to bring people together and looks for middle ground.

But even with the first Democratic contests weeks away, the November presidential election can seem far off.

Beri Fox, president and chief executive of Marble King in Paden City, W.Va., possibly the last American manufacturer of toy marbles, said she had not yet focused on the candidates’ overall plans, just “bits and pieces.”

Making sure American companies can compete with China is a priority for her, said Ms. Fox, who employs 28 people. She hopes that Mr. Trump’s confrontational approach on trade will work in the long run, but also feels that Mr. Biden cares deeply about domestic manufacturers. She has not decided whom to support for president.

For some, the battle for the Democratic nomination is still mostly background noise.

With so many candidates still in contention, “it just doesn’t seem worth my time to pick a heartthrob at this time,” said Rick Woldenberg, chief executive of Learning Resources in Vernon Hills, Ill., a family-owned manufacturer of educational materials and toys.

Mr. Woldenberg’s primary concern is the future of his business, which employs more than 200 people. The 2017 tax cuts engineered by Mr. Trump and his party helped generate more cash for investment, he said, but tariffs on imports have been punishing, raising the cost of materials and straining relations with customers and international vendors.

He also finds the president’s routine combativeness unsettling, not to mention his impeachment.

“I tend to favor politicians who are more moderate in their views,” Mr. Woldenberg said. “And I would not consider Trump to be especially moderate.”

Yet neither are Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, he said. Labeling them “very extreme,” he said that expensive plans like Medicare for all would depress the economy and that a wealth tax would be “catastrophic.”

The generally positive economic outlook, of course, could shift significantly in the coming year. The recent flare-up in tensions between the United States and Iran was a reminder that by the time of the election, international events could eclipse domestic ones.

At the moment, though, executives are focused on their businesses.

Tom Gimbel, the founder and chief executive of LaSalle Network, a Chicago-based employment agency, is looking for a candidate who will promote economic growth.

“Trump may be a loose cannon on international stuff, but domestically Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are loose cannons on restricting business,” Mr. Gimbel said. “Giving things away for free is a slap in the face for people who played by the rules. Where does it stop? Are we going to start paying off mortgage debt?”

He mentioned several other concerns about Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, including a wealth tax, broader eligibility for overtime pay, and pro-worker rulings that could come from a liberal National Labor Relations Board.

“We don’t need the opposite of Trump,” Mr. Gimbel said. “We don’t need an opposite of crazy. We need a moderate.”

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